First thing’s first: Psychemoon, a trio from Incheon, have created no ordinary debut in Ghosthouse. With a glance at the song titles, it’s ostensibly a concept album with playful paranormal themes; and certainly, the (entirely English-language) lyrics appear to be tongue-in-cheek references to classic horror film tropes and stock characters. Now, concepts are nothing but gimmicks if they’re not backed up by a proper execution, so how do Psychemoon approach that?
Musically, Ghosthouse is quite effective at evoking the eerie atmospheres that one might find in an old-school monster film. From the slow tread of the opener “Soul of the Swamp,” with its sinister string motif, to the wolf howl and folky melody found in “Vampire’s Song,” it’s clear that Psychemoon are intent on mirroring their lyrical themes as closely as possible. The harsh staccato chords of “Frankenstein Wedding” are satisfyingly reminiscent of the footsteps of the creature himself.
Actually, this is an aspect which reveals Psychemoon’s sharp eye for detail: they’ve paid a lot of attention to minute elements and flourishes, knowing when to put in the right sounds to bring forth the right associations. The spacious production also allows each part to breathe. Their samples and sound effects, in particular, are central to focusing the album around its not-entirely-serious theme; “Soul of the Swamp” has the sound of rippling water, “Flying Unicorn” features a neighing horse, and the sound of metal being swung is heard in “Goblin’s Knife.”
I realise I haven’t yet gone into any depth about the actual framework of these songs. Indeed, through which musical style do Psychemoon operate? The answer isn’t very straightforward, though this is precisely what makes Ghosthouse so interesting. Ghosthouse can be roughly divided into two portions, with the middle track, “Love of Siren,” serving as a transition of sorts. The first half has a strong rock and roll, bluesy influence; the swagger offered by this happens to pair well with the intimidating monsters from “Frankenstein Wedding” and “Goblin’s Knife”. The instrumental “Love of Siren” is surprisingly elegant and atmospheric, and almost plays out like a post-rock piece; the guitar cuts out a dramatic solo that is accompanied by strings.
I find “Love of Siren” to be quite beautiful in virtue of its sweeping, cinematic feel, and it actually shocked me a fair bit upon my first listen of Ghosthouse — I wasn’t at all expecting anything like “Love of Siren,” considering the energetic bravado of the song that precedes it. I was pleased to discover that “The Room of Limitless Mirrors” continues this atmospheric feel later on, with the addition of a well-developed outro. The portion of Ghosthouse that comes after “Love of Siren” is also stylistically distinct from the album’s first half; Psychemoon’s psychedelic rock influences are far more noticeable on tracks such as “Fairy in the Lamp” and “Escaping from Nightmare”. The reverberation is jacked up, the solos get more epic, and the climaxes become more prominent.
I consider it an impressive achievement that Ghosthouse remains coherent despite all of the diversity within itself. No doubt this is a feat that can only be accomplished by tight, effective songwriting, and Psychemoon maintain this consistently throughout the album. I’ve noticed that they tend to go for fairly straightforward song structures, but they keep things interesting with constantly varying guitar melodies and exciting runs. The musicianship is strong: Park Sangdo’s vocals are reliably powerful, and his guitar solos are particularly prominent on the latter half of the album; the rhythm backbone of Park Jinwon and Ahn Seongyang is solid and calls up the energy of Psychemoon. After all, the element of unpredictability is integral to the identity of Ghosthouse, and to meaningfully break from predictability takes a certain amount of skill.
If you don’t buy the quirky premise of Ghosthouse, worry not. At its core are easily enjoyable songs with character and spirit. It’ll be fascinating to see how Psychemoon develops their unique sound further in future releases.